Dominic - University of Wisconsin - Madison (ENG)

B. Mechanical Engineering
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

I studied four engineering courses: ME349 (Senior Capstone Design), ME446 (Automatic Control Systems), ME440 (Intermediate Vibrations) & BSE367 (Renewable Energy). The academic system is slightly different in Madison and I actually preferred it to UQ. Classes were smaller and each course had 2/3 lectures a week, these being fairly interactive. There was homework (yes, they call it homework) each week which accumulated to 30-40% of your grade, hence passing each course was very doable if you just attended class and did the assigned work. 

I made some late changes as to which courses I would study and found I couldn't enrol online because classes were full. If this happens just go to the first lecture, tell the lecturer you're an exchange student and they'll normally accommodate for you, worked for me. I'd also recommend researching the courses early and get 6-7 approved by UQ so that you have plenty of options when you arrive.

Personal experience

My most enjoyable part of exchange was meeting people. You will enter a town where you know very little people (if any) and I believe making friends is the best way to achieve the fullest exchange experience. I joined the Hoofers Society (which runs outdoor activities such as hiking, snowboarding and sailing) and this was an easy way to meet locals and explore the state. 

The semester before I left on exchange I attended one of the QUEST (UQ Society for incoming exchange students) events at Fridays, where by chance I met seven students from Wisconsin studying here in Brisbane. I became close friends with them and when I arrived in Madison I had seven friends who all wanted to show me around. They invited me to house parties each week, showed me around the bars, drove me to Milwaukee for a weekend, took me rock climbing at Devil's Lake, had me over for their family's Thanksgiving and showed me the best of Madison. These are now some of my closest friends, so before you leave, make sure you meet the Wisco students studying here in Brisbane.

Accommodation

I decided to not live in the dorms (what we call college) and leased out an apartment with three other Australians. I preferred this option because I had my own room and a kitchen and living room to share. Dorms are definitely a great way to meet people but you'll have less space and will pay double the price. I preferred cooking my own meals but the dorms do offer the meal plans so the decision depends on what you prefer. 

We found the apartment from the 'UW Sublet and Sublease' Facebook group and managed to organise a 6-month lease. I lived on North Brooks St. which is a 10min walk to classes and to the bars so it was a perfect spot.

Budget

Ice Hockey
Ice Hockey

I spent $4000 for the 6-month lease, $60 in weekly groceries, $45 monthly phone plan, $30 WiFi and electricity each month and about $80 a week for fun. Make sure you go to the Double U, they have 25c wings on Wednesdays and $5 all you can eat tacos on Fridays. 

Each weekend there would either be a home football game or I would try and travel. I went to Milwaukee, Chicago twice, New York, Texas and Indiana throughout the semester. You can get a $20 bus to Chicago or Milwaukee so they are less expensive travel options. The others were all flights away which can cost $100-$300 return. 

The total budget very much depends on how much you want to travel. I spend close to $20,000 but I also travelled for a month in Mexico and for a month in Colorado/LA (plus the US dollar was terrible). I feel the exchange itself cost around $14,000.

Professional development and employability

The greatest contribution to my professional development was the networking I made as I wish to study in the US one day. Otherwise, I also developed my independence and communication skills.

Highlight

The highlight of Wisconsin was 100% the football games (grid iron). Every second Saturday 90,000 students and fans would gather in Madison and paint the town red. I would pre-game with friends all day before walking to Randell Stadium. The student section is full of chants and songs (watch the Jump Around on Youtube if you haven't already) and I guarantee that you won't sit down once for the entire 3.5hr game. If you're considering studying anywhere in the US, I would certainly recommend going the second semester for football season and that you invest in student section tickets.

Top tips

  • If you're contemplating exchange, do it! You won't regret it.
  • Meet the Wisco students studying here at UQ before you go. 
  • If you're going 2nd semester, travel early before it gets cold. 
  • Buy student football tickets.
Dominic - University of Wisconsin - Madison (ENG)